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New buildings are not the only signs of expansion at the University — the list of majors offered to undergraduates has also grown, especially during this academic year. Most recently, the College of Arts, Sciences and Engineering has added an American studies major as of this fall and plans for a new digital media major are in the works.

This fall, UR also saw the formation of a business major — an opportunity for the University to expand on its already renowned business reputation thanks to the William E. Simon School of Business. Ronald Hansen, senior associate dean for program development at the Simon School, is also a major advisor for undergraduates and spoke about how and why the new major came into existence.

What steps were taken to make the business major a reality?

The discussion of a business major has occurred at several times in the past, but various issues prevented serious consideration.  I would credit the University’s strategic planning process with generating renewed interest in a business major from several constituencies including trustees, alumni, students, faculty and administrators.

The creation of the major was a joint effort involving faculty and administration at the College and the Simon School.  There were many different plans that were advanced, but a common thread was that this would be a business major within the context of a liberal arts program.

Proposals were discussed, refined and ultimately approved by faculty committees in the College and at Simon. The business major was submitted to and approved by the New York State Department of Education. The ability to involve tenure-track faculty from the Simon School was made possible by a generous gift from Barry Florescue [a UR alumnus from the class of 1966 and current member of the University’s Board of Trustees].

One other important element is that since Simon is not a department in the College, there was a need to construct a vehicle to handle the administrative matters.  There is an oversight committee consisting of faculty and administrators from Simon and the College.

There has been a long history of cooperation between the economics department and Simon.

Advising support has been provided by Karen Forsythe in the Multidisciplinary Studies Center.

How did you assess the need for the business major?

At Simon we observed a steady increase in the enrollments in the business courses we offered. The economics department created the financial economics major which incorporates several Simon finance and accounting classes, and it quickly became a very popular major.

Later they introduced the economics and business strategy major which was beginning to attract students as well. The business minor was also becoming popular.  In addition we received expressions of interest in a business major from undergraduate students.  We also bench-marked schools similar to UR that had undergraduate business majors.

How does it differ from an economics major?

There are really at least three majors in economics: the standard one, the financial economics major and the economics and business strategy major. There are many flavors of the primary economics major including courses that could be considered more public policy oriented.

Our primary concern was with the differences between the business major and the financial economics major.  While there are overlapping courses, we were careful not to include finance electives as part of the business major in order to keep them distinct.

How popular do you think the new major will become?

We estimated that there would be approximately 50 to 60 majors in future graduating classes, but it is too early to tell for sure.  I have already noticed an increase in requests for transfer credit from transfer students who are planning on pursuing the business major.

Did the reputation of the Simon School impact the decision to create the business major at the undergraduate level?

The prestige of the Simon School was certainly an important factor in the creation of the business major.  A very important aspect of the Simon culture is that from the very early days of the business school at UR, we have been known as a very academic business school.  Our faculty are very research oriented, and we publish three of the leading academic journals in business.  The College is well known for its very high academic standards so it is a natural fit.

Olfano is a member of the class of 2012.

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